1. I LOVE THIS. I think this is a great alternative to your traditional mac and cheese. The cauliflower adds a wonderful vegetable component which makes you feel okay about eating something so rich, creamy and fattening. Cauliflower is such a hearty vegetable, and can withstand all the cream and cheese without being lost in the pasta I didn’t macerate my cauliflower too much, so there were gorgeous florets dotting the pasta. The pancetta rosemary crumble on top is salt, earthy, and sweet – the perfect topping for mac and cheese. It is another fun alternative to breadcrumbs that adds crispiness but with actual flavour.
2. This recipe is also extremely easy to make. I love that the cauliflower and the pasta cook silmultaneously in one pot and that the pancetta is crisped up in the oven in the dish that you will later use to cook the pasta. Simple and very little clean up which makes it my kind of meal.
3. This casserole reheats beautifully. Because of all cream and cheese it becomes a gooey mess all over again, as if it was just pulled from the oven. Perfect for leftovers and for making your coworkers jealous. It’s aroma will fill the entire office and have people drooling over your desk.
4. This recipe doesn’t use my key ingredient of mustard but that’s okay. The sharpness of the cheddar, and the pine-tree taste from the rosemary do more than enough to flavour this pasta.
I know you are probably all thinking, “No. I love my traditional mac and cheese and I don’t want to change the recipe I use.” But I insist you try this recipe, even just once.
Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!
8 slices pancetta (about 1/8″thick)
1 large head of cauliflower
1 pound dried macaroni (or similar shaped pasta)
9 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese
4 thick slices of country bread
a few springs of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup crème fraîche
Parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fill a pasta pot with water and boil on high heat. If you choose to grate the Cheddar cheese using a food processor, put the coarse grater attachment into the machine.
2. Lay the pancetta in a 9 x 13 roasting pan. Put into the oven and bake for about 8 minutes until slightly golden and turning up at the edges.
3. Trim off the tough base of the cauliflower stalk and quarter the head. Put in the pasta pot with the pasta, on high heat. The water should be just a few inches over the cauliflower and pasta; drain some water, if needed. Season water with about a tablespoon of sea salt, drizzle over about a tablespoon of olive oil, then stir and cook following the instructions on the pasta package, with the pot lid askew.
4. Grate the Cheddar in the food processor and tip into a bowl (or you can grate coursely with a hand grater). Fit the standard blade attachment, then get your pancetta out of the oven and blitz in the processor with the bread, rosemary leaves, and drizzle of olive oil (approx 1 tbsp) until you have a coarse breadcrumb consistency.
5. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Add the macaroni to the same roasting pan you cooked the pancetta in and add about 1 1/2 c. of the reserved pasta water. Add finely chopped garlic cloves and mix in the crème fraîche and grated Cheddar, gently breaking up the cauliflower with tongs or a potato masher. Taste for seasoning. The pasta sauce should be loose and creamy; if not, add another splash of pasta water.
6. Spread the pasta out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumbs. Put in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the pasta is bubbly.